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Bring ethnic minorities to mainstream development

Seminar told

Experts yesterday stressed the need for bringing different ethnic minority communities to mainstream development and policymaking processes to ensure sustainable development in the country.

At a seminar, they also suggested that the authorities concerned should engage in talks with the communities to resolve some long-standing unsettled issues.

The issues include full implementation of the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord, land ownership complexities and recognition of the national identity of the minorities.

The experts, including academics, bureaucrats and retired military officers, also suggested widening the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs.

Currently, the ministry only looks after the issues of ethnic minorities in the CHT, ignoring that of in the plains, they said.

Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) organised the seminar, titled “Engaging Ethnic Minorities in National Development: Way Forward”, at its auditorium in the capital.

Prime Minister's Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, CHT affairs ministry Secretary Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, NDC, BISS Director General Maj Gen (retd) AKM Abdur Rahman, and Dhaka University's history department Prof Mesbah Kamal, among others, spoke at the programme.

 Prof Syed Anwar Hussain of the same department presented the keynote paper.

HT Imam said the government was very actively working for the development of the entice minorities. ”We should do much more to engage them [ethnic minorities] in national development. I can tell you this government is deliberately trying to do that.”

He said they were focusing on the empowerment of the ethnic minority communities in Bangladesh.

Imam also said the government would make special efforts to look after all those people who are backward and under poverty line in a bid to take them forward for creating a level-playing field for all citizens and ensure balanced development.

In his keynote papers, Prof Anwar said the government should take well-thought-out plans to integrate the ethnic minorities with the country's overall development process. “Development should not be confused with growth. Development addresses problems of all the people of the country.”

He said a good strategic communication policy would pave the way for full implementation of the long-awaited peace treaty.

The teacher said the parliamentary standing committee on the CHT Affairs could hold a public hearing on the issue.

He also suggested that the authorities concerned should engage in talks with the CHT people for resolving their    land ownership and national identity problems.